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Germany hoping to avoid another case of 'second album syndrome' against Ghana

The Germans have had some bad results in the second games of tournaments in recent times.

Image: Matthias Schrader

Mikey Stafford reports for TheScore.ie from Fortaleza

WITH STATISTICALLY THE most physically draining group games of any of the 32 teams in Brazil, Germany would dearly love to smooth their transition to the second round with a win on Saturday night. Their destruction of Portugal should inspire confidence but then, Die Mannschaft have a history of making things difficult for themselves.

Four years ago they faced Ghana in a do-or-die group game after they had followed up a 4-0 opening day win over Australia with a shocking 1-0 defeat to Serbia.

Two years before that they started with a 2-0 win over Poland at Euro 2008 only to lose their second match against Croatia.

As they showed with their four-star display against Portugal on Monday, Germany do not suffer from opening night jitters. It is the difficult second album that causes them problems.

They appeared to have rectified the problem at Euro 2012 as they sauntered through a devilishly difficult group with three wins from three in Poland. A similar sequence would obviously suit them just fine in Brazil and set them up for a second round encounter with the runners-up in the comparatively weak Group H, where Belgium are doing the early running.

Of course, Germany wouldn’t be Germany if they were getting ahead of themselves and yesterday Joachim Löw advised caution ahead of this afternoon’s meeting with a Ghana side who will “play like this is a final” after they lost their opening match against the United States.

“We have to be careful and pay lots of attention, we saw this in 2008 and 2010,” said Löw yesterday, before citing more recent examples of other countries from the past week. “We saw that Italy played and lost against Costa Rica and the Netherlands almost didn’t beat Australia. It is great to win the first game but we have to continue. Our objective is we have to maintain focus and pay attention.”

With their status as group winners on the line in Soweto four years ago Germany squeezed past the Black Stars thanks to a Mesut Ozil goal, and Ghana’s knowledge that results elsewhere were ensuring their progress as runners-up regardless.

Brazil Soccer WCup Germany Ghana Source: Matthias Schrader

Ghana came within a missed Asamoah Gyan penalty of becoming the first African side to reach the last four in South Africa, but this year’s campaign threatens to peter out before it begins and Kwesi Appiah’s men know that defeat to the world’s number-two-ranked team will all but guarantee they fall at the first hurdle for the first time in their history.

This will require the Ghanaians to be much more alert in defence than they were in Natal, where they let Clint Dempsey score within seconds before fighting their way back into the match, only to concede from a late corner.

Despite missing a host of chances against the US, Appiah believes Ghana can add to the list of shock results the World Cup has already seen.

“Football has come of age. I said already I thought there would be lots of surprises at this World Cup,” he said. “Ghana have really good players and I am confident we will get better as the competition goes on.”

In Gyan, Kwadwo Asamoah and Andre Ayew Ghana have quality attacking players, with the possibility of Schalke’s former Germany Under-21 Kevin-Prince Boateng reclaiming his place in the starting line-up only adding to their attacking options.

Germany are sweating over the fitness of centre-half Mats Hummels and the failure of the Dortmund man to recover from a thigh problem would pose Löw in a quandary. Will he replace him with Sampdoria’s Shrokdan Mustafi or move Jerome Boateng to the centre and possibly withdraw captain Philipp Lahm from his centre midfield role, allowing for the return of Sebastian Schweinsteiger to the team?

Löw is unlikely to make three positional switches to a team that looked so impressive against Portugal. Thomas Müller scored a hat-trick playing as a false nine in Salvador and even if Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was unimpressed by the Bayern Munich man’s performance against his native land, Sami Khedira was blunt in his defence of the 24-year-old who has eight goals in seven World Cup matches.

“Our colleague Müller scored three goals. Everyone has to do their part. It all depends on the team, the penalty was justified, and then he scored his own goals. They were intelligent goals, they were not forced,” said the Real Madrid man.

His coach Löw went even further, praising Müller the man, not just the player.

“Not only from sports side but he is important for us,” he said. “He is unpredictable and always ready to score the goal.

“He motivates colleagues, he is fun, he is lively. His behaviour is important. He is lively, he chats to everyone at meal times. He is a team player who brings everyone together.

“He is able to transmit this happiness, this spontaneity, and that really is important for our team.”

Müller hopes to transmit some more happiness by extending his remarkable World Cup scoring record and send the Black Stars home.

Probable Teams

Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Jerome Boateng, Shrokdan Mustafi/Mats Hummels, Per Mertesacker, Benedikt Howedes; Philipp Lahm, Sami Khedira; Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze; Thomas Muller

Ghana (4-3-2-1): Adam Kwarasey; Daniel Opare, John Boye, Jonathan Mensah, Kwadwo Asamoah; Mohammed Rabiu, Christian Atsu, Sulley Muntari; Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew; Asamoah Gyan

Referee: Sandro Ricci (Brazil)

Kick-off: 4pm (8pm GMT), Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza.

Martin O’Neill burned Fabio Cannavaro and Patrick Vieira on ITV tonight>

Hodgson to remain as England boss despite early World Cup exit – FA>

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Mikey Stafford

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